Joint pain can be tricky to self-diagnose, because it’s a common symptom of several different conditions. And because each of those conditions require different treatments, it’s important to get an accurate professional diagnosis.
At NEIL GHODADRA, MD, in West Los Angeles and Thousand Oaks, California, we specialize in getting to the bottom of joint pain and treating it with the most advanced technology and techniques.
Dr. Ghodadra is fellowship-trained and highly experienced in sports medicine and orthopedic surgery. If you’re experiencing joint pain, you can trust him to diagnose it accurately and provide the best treatment to reduce your pain and get you moving again.
Here, he takes a closer look at one of the lesser known causes of persistent joint pain: bursitis.
Getting to know your joints
You have several joints throughout your body, but they’re not all the same. Some are ball-and-socket joints (hips, shoulders) that allow you to make rotating, forward, backward, and sideways movements. Some joints are like hinges (toes, fingers, elbows); some allow pivoting (neck); and some do everything but pivot (wrists).
All joints contain cartilage that lines the ends of your bones and prevents wear and tear. They also have ligaments and tendons to attach your muscles to the bones and control movement in the joints.
In between the ligaments and bones, you have bursa sacs, or small, closed pouches of fluid.
The beauty of bursae
Bursae are made up of a flexible membrane filled with synovial fluid, which is a viscous substance that lubricates your joints. The bursae serve as cushions that allow the bones in your joints to glide over one another without too much friction or shock.
Bursae are small — about 4 cm by 2 mm on average — but they have a super power. They can allow some material to flow in and out of their semi-permeable shell and block others from passing through. This enables them to secrete synovial fluid when you need extra lubrication, and also protects them from foreign invaders.
Types of bursae
There are two main types of bursae, and one additional type that can develop under certain circumstances.
Synovial bursae are the most common type, and they can be found near the synovial membranes in your joints. Subcutaneous bursae are located just under your skin over a bony place on your body, like your elbow.
The third type of bursa only occurs in places where you have a lot of friction, such as when your shoes are too tight. In this case, you may develop a bunion, or an adventitious bursa.
Symptoms of bursitis
If you injure your bursae, they can become inflamed and painful, a condition called bursitis. You may have bursitis if you experience:
- Joint pain
- Swollen joints
- Reddened skin
- Thickened bursae
Along with these symptoms, you may also find it difficult to bend the affected joint. Bursitis in your hip or shoulder can also interfere with sleeping because of the pressure that occurs when you lie on these joints.
Common locations of bursitis
Any of your more than 150 bursae can become irritated, inflamed, infected (septic bursitis), or damaged, but the most common bursitis spots are these four locations:
Called prepatellar bursitis, inflammation of the bursae in your knee joint is one of the most common types. It affects 10 in every 10,000 people — although there may be many more undiagnosed cases — and about 80% of them are men between the ages of 40 and 60. This can be either an acute injury or a chronic condition. Repeated knee bending, kneeling, and sports activities can lead to prepatellar bursitis.
If you injure your elbow joint, you may develop olecranon bursitis. This is typically a chronic condition, and you may feel a small nodule inside the bursa. The most common cause of olecranon bursitis is a sharp blow to the elbow, although some studies also show a link to gout, a type of inflammatory arthritis.
Trochanteric bursitis affects your hips. It usually develops slowly and often goes hand in hand with arthritis, particularly age-related osteoarthritis This problem may develop if you lie on your hips for long periods of time, have poor posture, or sustain an injury.
An acute injury or chronic condition can lead to retrocalcaneal bursitis in your heel — a painful problem that causes swelling and difficulty walking. You can get this from jumping, running, or even wearing shoes that are too tight.
Dr. Ghodadra treats all types of bursitis. Depending on the underlying cause, he may prescribe antibiotics to address infection and/or anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling. In some cases, he may administer platelet-rich plasma therapy to trigger your body’s own healing factors.
To find out which treatment is best for you, schedule an appointment online or by phone today.